Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bead Soup Blog Party

Finally the day has arrived to reveal the lovely beads my generous Bead Soup Blog Party partner Stefanie Teufel of sent me. They were a lovely mix of oceany blues and greens in lots of different materials and textures with coordinating sari silk fabric. Stefanie does such a beautiful job with these materials that I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them. I love this necklace and plan to add to it and wear it very soon. (The candy from Germany was also a big hit with everyone here!)
To see the list of bead soup blog partners and their creations visit Lori Anderson's blog:
This has been a great experience! Stefanie did an awesome job with the polymer clay beads I sent to Germany. Now I'm off to check out what everyone else has done. Join me....

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Matter of Preference

Beadmaking is my passion and my delight. When I started to make what I like instead of what I think other people might like, beadmaking progressed into jewelrymaking. Here's today's question: shiny or mattte?
I like matte finished beads. The colors do not pop quite as much, but individual colors tend to blend with things you wouldn't normally choose when the finish is unglazed. The beads have a more earthy feel and are smooth as silk after sanding.

Glazed beads, on the other hand, have that great light-reflecting quality that makes you notice jewelry. Glaze deepens the colors and makes them stand out more. Glaze also fills in and strengthens the surface of a bead.

Designing a piece of jewelry using both glazed and unglazed beads works in most compositions, but most of my newest work cries out for diversity and a large variety of beads from which to choose. I envy people who have huge bead stashes to pick from when designing. I want to create all of the beads in a piece myself. Perhaps years from now I will have built up a backlog of beads. Perhaps I'll be making something else altogether. Robots, maybe.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I have exciting news to report: for the first time I signed up for the Bead Soup Blog Party and I have received an absolutely wonderful partner. She is Stefanie Teufel in Germany. Many years ago in university I took enough courses to receive a minor in German. I didn't learn how to speak it well as we mostly watched videos of a student's daily life in German and memorized phrases. She kindly provides both German and English translations on her blog
Wait till you see the vibrant colors of her work in her etsy shop:
I tend to work with a lot of muted earthy tones, but am so excited to think about working with the color combinations she creates like the pictures here. I can't wait to exchange beads and see what our creations will be!

Monday, August 8, 2011

To Bead or Not to Bead-That is the Question

Things are happening rapidly for me right now. Back to school time means back to work and less time for studio work/play. I'm trying to list as much as possible on etsy for the times ahead when I'll be too busy. Here's the thing: when I make a few beads that I really like, it's difficult to decide whether to make something out of them or list them for someone else with more jewelry-making skill to enjoy. I'm taking apart some bracelets to make necklaces to increase the number of beads I have to work with. Still love the stretchy bracelets best of all, but necklaces are quite fun now that the secrets are revealing themselves. Will just have to take my cue from Scarlett. Tomorrow IS another day after all.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Color of August

I adore the colors in this month's ABS Challenge. Most of the walls in my home are painted the lovely ochre of the model's dress. It's a perfect backdrop for the brick reds,burnt sienna,olive and cobalt blues I like to use in decorating. As usual, I got out the clays and played around with mixing my colors. I decided to use some different polymer clay techniques so that the beads would have some pizzazz: caning, extrusion, and mosaic. I made an ochre, a soft yellow, some coppery sienna and some green-grayish mud to work with the black and white I saw in the original. I wanted the necklace to be long like women wore during this time period so I made lots of beads. The necklace hangs beautifully but does not photograph on my necklace display as it is 31 inches long. How perfect this challenge was for August, the weeds and trees are starting to take on that thirsty ochre hue before the fall rains begin.(If you click the necklace picture you can see the detail better.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Smoky Mountain Memories

Part of my growing-up years were in the Smoky Mountains. I love all of Tennessee, but the eastern part holds a special place in my heart. I love the way you can see that misty blue gray outline from miles and miles away as you approach. I love the way the trees seem to shade and shelter you from the heat. I love the way a smidgen of sunlight peeks through a hole in the leaves. Last year our loved ones took us to see a production about the original inhabitants leaving the mountains to make way for the park. It was heart-wrenching to realize that people lost their homes and their traditions so that we could make roads that snake slowly up the mountainsides for tourists to visit. Say hello to the Smokies for me, you'ns.

Twilight Zone Web Beads

These beads have a mysterious spooky feel to them. While trying to achieve a soft-edged design using the mokume gane technique, a web appeared. Was it an accident or have we entered (insert music we all know here: dee,dee,Dee,dee) ....THE TWILIGHT ZONE?
There are eight 12-14 mm matte-finished polymer clay beads for your stringing pleasure...if you dare. There's something weird about these beads. I just tried to make this post and the computer went bleep and published it with only the title.
(Been watching too many old shows on Netflix lately, can you tell?)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tiger Lilies

This week's challenge for Humblebead's "Inspired by Nature" series is tiger lilies. They grow wild around here. One summer my oldest and I picked up a friend and drove to the next town where driver's education classes were held. The road to her house was covered with tiger lilies. A sea of orange. Almost like driving through Knoxville on a football weekend. I wanted to incorporate the orange with a little black for the speckles on a real tiger lily. The disk beads at the base of the necklace were caned with black and white spirals, some of the pendants use the watercolor mosaic technique. Not visible at the upper part of the necklace are tiny rondelles in shades of orange. To get the pendant collection to hang properly I strung everything on leather. All beads are polymer clay and handmade by me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fading Through the Door Into Summer

And he thought he heard the echo of a pennywhistle band...and the laughter from a distant caravan...and the brightly colored line of circus wagons in the sand...fading through the door into summer.
This is a song from an old Monkees album. I know, I know, but I still have two copies of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones.
Summer is fading slowly as the heat lingers on. The trees are still green, but everything looks dusty and tired. Let's start fall early, shall we?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Plight of the Bumblebee-Inspired by Nature

I don't know if I got this necklace finished in time for the challenge deadline, but it was wonderful to get so wrapped up in creating. The theme was bees. Right outside my studio window is a crepe myrtle bush visited daily by bees. I was so excited to use them as models. I started by making a bunch of black beads layered with silver foil and yellow alcohol ink with a translucent overlay. These were my base layer interspersed with glass seed beads in black and yellow stacks. Then I mixed translucent and burnt sienna to get my beehive color and extruded strings to get the hive effect. I needed a dark pearlex powder for the shadows between layers, but didn't have any. A quick trip to the drugstore and some black eyeshadow worked perfectly. The bees were simply tranlucent with a bit of yellow and extruded black for the stripes,stinger and antennae. Tiny translucent wings sort of disappear, but are there. I then made some rectangular tubes in a bit stronger yellow with white flower cane overlays. I have some left over and hope to have enough for a bracelet and earrings as well. A honey of a challenge! Thanks!

Brave New World

Once again I am amazed at the possibilities of beading now that I've finally learned to use the jewelery pliers. These are book thongs made with little abstract heartlight beads on one end that seemed too special to include in a bracelet or necklace but needed a setting where the melting colors could be contemplated a bit more. The bead on the other end is an experiment with flattened disks, stamping and pearlex powders that I could never get to fit into a bracelet but feels the perfect weight for book thongs. I made some with leather and some with this nice cording. Need to decide which works best because I want to make lots. Such a nice little giftie for readers.You can leave it in your book and don't have to lay it aside to get lost while you read. Don't know what to do about the Kindle crowd; what can I bead for you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I made this little mermaid back in the spring, listed her on etsy and waited. Nothing happened. The listing expired and I put her away. Just this week I made some experimental beads with the new Premo white translucent and had no idea what to do with them. Today I cleaned out my workspace and found lots of unrelated things: pirate coins I'd made while playing with pearlex powders, a bit of chain bought on sale, silver seed beads. Everything seemed to come together to make this necklace that I just adore. This time I won't mind if the etsy listing expires before it sells, I'll keep it just for me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

ABS July Challenge

I must admit that the July challenge painting for ABS had me bumfuzzled. I just couldn't get the colors to jibe. My first attempt was a dismal failure. I was determined this month to use all the colors: red, yellow-green,yellow-orange, pink,forest green, crimson, periwinkle and blue-purple (my own labels-not the official names). The epiphany came when I looked at the new style of bead I'd been working on this week based on fifties fabrics and grouped the colors to make miniature abstract tropical flowers using the periwinkle as background. The forest green provided a leafy color and the other colors combined to make some splendid spiky flowers that Lucie Hessel might have added to her garden. I decided to make a very simple bracelet to showcase these beads and matching spacers. Quite a challenge!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fifties Fashion

I've been making polymer clay beads lately with muted abstract designs in the colors of summer dresses from my childhood. I remember the fabrics of the fifties. All of the ladies I knew then wore cotton dresses made with yards and yards of fabric. There were shirtwaists and sailor style dresses and A-line and scoop neck styles. The fabric had a tropical feel. The colors were muted and soft, but the art was flamboyant and abstract. Flowers, birds and leaves were mere suggestions. You could look at a skirt and see all kinds of pictures just like when you saw images in the clouds. I didn't appreciate the dresses then, but as I grow older there's a certain nostalgia for things from the past, and I see how beautiful those dresses really were.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Aha Moment

It's been at least a year since I bought all of the paraphernalia for wirework. Several times I've picked up the pliers, played around a little and stored them out of sight. Many, many times I've read jewelry-making blogs and tutorials, books and magazine articles. Nothing clicked. The pliers stayed out of sight. Just the other day I decided to clean up my work station. Lo and behold, the pliers and headpins were in my line of sight. I picked them up. I picked up a bead, threaded a headpin through the hole and couldn't figure out what to do with all of the excess wire. The magic measurement of a quarter inch popped into my mind. I marked a quarter inch from the top of my pointer finger with a Sharpie. Now I knew where to make a cut. I picked up the needle nose pliers and found that was the perfect length for a secure loop. I picked up the chain nose pliers and found that the loop could be flattened and centered above the bead easily. Eureka! Bead dangles! What to do with them? Earrings came to mind first. I tried a few and it worked, but it's not much fun making things you can't wear yourself. I know, I know even toddlers get their ears pierced, but I am Chicken. Hear me squawk. Anyway, I tried making a balanced statement necklace with the dangles and the multitude of rondelles I make in a meditative state while I'm thinking of colors and patterns to try. Again Eureka! Lovely necklaces. And to think-it only took a year.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grandma Beads

I would love to have called these Granny beads, but that's what we called the dirty ring around the neck we got from playing out in the dirt all day. Thus, these are called Grandma beads. I don't sew today. I could, but I don't. Granny taught me how in the front of the store between ringing up bologna on crackers and nickel cokes and dealing with the drummers (salesmen) who came to sell her gimcracks and geegaws for the big glass case in her country store. Granny's penchant for burgundy was famous. I wanted to make a youthful A-line dress in teal and spring green, but Granny insisted on some of the maroonish fabric from her stash. The dress wound up looking like one of the tent dresses Granny always wore because she didn't believe in following patterns. I was never able to wear it, but it would have fit her to a T.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frida Beads

I have a notecard tacked to my bulletin board with one of Frida Kahlo's many self portraits. It's the one with pink, red , yellow and blue flowers surrounding her head. She looks pensive. Her artwork intrigues me, sometimes disturbs me and sometimes baffles me. Reading about her life can never really explain exactly what she was trying to say. Can we ever know what a piece of art means to the artist? Probably not. Whether you write a poem or brush paint onto a canvas, you are expressing a moment that is so fleeting, so ephemeral that you yourself may not be able to call it forth once it has passed. Right now beads seem to emerge from the clay without forethought. The colors combine in ways I cannot anticipate and I am happy with the results. Months or even years from now will I be able (or even want) to recreate today's work? Or will the work have evolved into a different animal altogether?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Art Bead Scene-What a thrill!

My Ophelia pendant was featured on the Art Bead Scene blog! Absolutely thrilling to see it-I squealed like a kid. I'm so glad I finally got the courage to actually submit something. I know I've got a long way to go. I'm a beadmaker first and foremost; this challenge forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me a jewelry maker as well. I hoped to find a class on wireworking this summer, but so far it's study-on-your-own season. For now it's gajillions of stretchy bracelets so that I can get the beads out in the world. How fine it would be to design a more sophisticated setting for the new beads. Someday....sigh.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weeping Willow

Today's post is inspired by the challenge on Humblebead's blog. The idea was to create something on the concept of "Willow". Willow to me means the weeping willow trees of my childhood. Granny had one as big as a mountain ( it seemed to me). The branches came all the way to the ground and you could pretend you were in your own private cave of green as far as the eye could see. We had one sorry willow specimen in our yard right on the fence row. The neighbor's mule would mosey up to the fence, bray once just to show he could get away with it, and chomp a few leaves. He finally killed it before it could flourish.
My dad sang an uptempo bluegrassy song that had this verse:"Bury me beneath the willow, Under the weeping willow tree, So she may know where I am sleeping, Then perhaps she'll think of me." It's strange how a snippet of song can bring back a forgotten feeling. I thought everybody grew up with the same songs. When I went to college the girls from the city knew a smouldering jazzy song with this line: "Weeping willow weep for me, You know where I long to be...". Same tree, same sentiment, different worlds.
I pulled out all the green mini beads I'd made from polymer clay from my stash and made a few shades I didn't have to make this willow-inspired fidget bracelet. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Heather!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coyote's Quest Beads

Day after day Coyote traveled the roadside. She felt the eyes of the two-legged ones watching from every angle. The roar and vibrations from the traveling machines keeping her wary. A safe place to lie down,a place to prepare was all she sought. A safe place close to water and far from the noise of the machines. "Are the safe places all gone?" she howled, but there were none of her kind to answer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer of '42 Bracelet

Lina walked along the water's edge. She dodged the towels and umbrellas on the beach keeping her focus on the horizon. Shep was out there somewhere on the other side of that ocean.The sky was soft. The water was blue. The waiting was hard. Getting harder every day.

Mermaid's Treasure Bracelet

Lina lay on the rocks and dipped her tailfin in the water. She thought about the jewels in her clamshell. "I'm in a sparkly kind of mood today," she thought. This bracelet is what she wore.

Song of the Whale Beads

The whale came closer to shore. "Step back,"said the mothers,"The whale is so big." Sadly, the whale retreated, singing as she swam. The song spoke of regret, of sadness, of hope,of love. When the mothers heard the whale's song, they told their children,"The next time the whale comes by do not be afraid for she is a mother too."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Under the Apple Tree Beads

Lina waited for the mailman. Through the kitchen window she heard her mother's radio. "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me..." The sun was dipping behind the barn. Night was closing in. Just like yesterday and the day before, the mailman never came.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


While I'm making beads there is always a story in my head. I'm thinking about a color, a texture, a story, a song, a poem. Here's where "Visionary" came from.
The sky was turning from ink to milk as Lina stood at the kitchen window. In the distance the trees were shadows in deep greens and blues. A woman appeared, mist swirling around her skirts. Lina was instantly drawn to the woman. She could feel the soft fabric of the woman's skirt against her own legs. Soft blue green with designs of lilac and sunny yellow. As the woman neared, she could see that the designs looked like eyes. "Should I go and talk to her?"Lina thought. Just then the woman turned to the left and was gone.
Later that day Lina found a scrap of fabric tied to the branch of her clothesline tree. It was soft blue green with designs of lilac and sunny yellow. The eyes looked back at her.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How a Bead is Born

I'm so excited that my friend Hannah is making polymer clay beads this week. Beads are really just poems in a medium other than words for me. I hear a line in a song, see a pattern in a butterfly's wing, read a word that intrigues me...They all become beads. Here's how these Copacabana beads were born. Flipping through daytime television I paused on Barry Manilow. He was playing requests. "Let's have a happy song," the host said,"how about Copacabana?" Catchy, yes, but happy? Not Copacabana. I started to think about the images in the song and these beads were born. The yellow feathers, the dress (midnight blue with peekaboo cutouts and a hint of red underneath that drove both Rico and Tony wild). I muted the colors because that dress would be fading right along with Lola. Copacabana beads emerged.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Turn on your heartlight

I bought alcohol inks quite a while ago and have only started playing with techniques this year. Applied directly to the clay, the colors are soft and subtle. When metallic leaf is layered between the clay and the inks something magic happens. I can look at these beads all day. The colors change as you twirl the beads between your fingers: blues morph into greens, reds and yellows make fire, purples peek shyly from the edges. Poetry without words.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Science Class All Over Again

All those years of teaching fifth graders how to do science experiments have paid off. Today I started out trying to make some BIG beads. The beads were beautiful, but they took a lot of precious clay and were too heavy to suit me. How to make a hollow round bead-experiment number one. First I tried placing the clay on a rounded support, but this resulted in lentil shapes instead of roundish ones. Then I tried baking the beads around an already rounded bead, slicing them open,removing the armature and putting the two halves back together. Too much margin for error in this one. Last, I searched for a dissolvable substance that would simply be gone when the bead was cured and cleaned. EUREKA! It worked. I desperately wanted it to be cornstarch packing peanuts, but alas, none were in my studio. What was in my studio, you ask. Ummm, snacks were in my studio. Some cheezy crunchy things from the "healthy foods" aisle at Kroger were in my studio. I placed a layer of scrap clay against the ersatz food, extruded a rainbow blend of clay and wrapped the bundle. Then, I pierced the resulting bead and fired it up. When the beads came out of the oven I dropped them in water. They floated! After a few minutes they sank to the bottom. When I took them from the water bath, I blew the remainder of the residue out of the piercing holes. VOILA-a big hollow bead.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Art Bead Scene posted the picture for the June Challenge and, once again, I diligently got to work. I've done every challenge for the past few months, but lacked the courage to actually send them in. Seeing the incredible work of some of the designers is daunting. This months' picture is Ophelia in the water. Here's how the day went: I pulled out the translucent clay and alcohol inks to mix a watery mokume block while sculpting a bas relief Ophelia face covered with a thin layer of translucent to give it an underwater look. The resulting cabochon was baked on a small light bulb to give it shape then re-baked with black and copper backing and rope trim. The graduated blue-green beads were formed by slicing thin slices from the block and applying them to skinner blended base beads of blue and green. I wavered back and forth on glazing, but really liked a matte finish for this piece. The spacers and dangles are black rondelles and flower and leaf cut-outs smeared with sparkling copper Pearl-ex. I wanted the piece to have an earthy feel and decided to use 1 mm leather for stringing and a hippie sliding closure with the leaf beads I made for the dangles. It turned out quite pretty. Here's a link to the challenge:
Art Bead Scene Blog: June Monthly Challenge

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pendant sale

I've been making pendants for about 6 months now and stashing them under other stuff on the bead table. While cleaning I decided that they were taking up valuable real estate and needed to go live in my etsy shop until someone wants to take them home. I listed a few today and plan to list the rest in the coming weeks at a sale price. I think I'll keep a few to wear myself now that I have found a stringing material that looks and feels good with claywork. See anything you like?

Saturday, May 28, 2011


While browsing for info on photography for etsy and talking to my computer-savvy son, I had an epiphany. There are two mindsets when it comes to doing things on the computer. There are people who fearlessly fiddle around and try every button on menus until they figure out how to do something. And....there are people who search desperately for a step-by-step manual, a diagram, a person who can simply tell them in plain English: "Click that button." Why is this so? My training in education taught me to read instructions, follow directions, and, when you can't find something, ask the reference librarian or teacher for help. There is no reference librarian on your computer. There is no teacher. You have to figure things out for yourself. You have to boldly go. I'm not sure if the two mindsets are a generational thing or a personality trait. I simply know that I need to take better photos if I want to succeed as an online beadmaker. I just wish there was a computer-savvy reference librarian or a photography teacher leading me by the hand.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Summertime-and the living is ...well, not quite easy, but more manageable. Two classes to teach and some sporadic office work and possibly time to work at the bead table. Goals for this summer: learn to make earrings, put cords on pendants and list lots of stuff on etsy that's sitting in the studio,co-ordinate tags, business cards,online presence, see Polly, Diana and Hannah. Might even find time to read a book on the front porch. Ahhh, summer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Samurai beads

While watching "Seven Samurai" I was intrigued with the headgear on this guy. I had to recreate that curve and worked all week to perfect the technique for these samuari beads. It's so strange how inspiration can come from something totally unrelated to beadmaking: a color, a shape, a texture. I'm always looking at printed fabrics for patterns, but ideas can come when you least expect it. I'm popping these in my etsy shop. If you'd like some in a different color, just let me know.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fidget beads

Just a few bracelets with fidget rings. The perfect way to use up bits and pieces of a cane or special color combination.
Someone just told me that they can tell if I have been making beads or not by how I sound when I answer the phone. If I'm beadmaking I sound happy. I'm needing to let go of a lot of baggage lately. Is it safe to say that there are beaders and there are beadmakers and one does not necessarily have to be both? I LOOOOVE to make beads. I don't mind stringing them into simple bracelets and have even managed to make a few necklaces which I truly enjoy wearing. After buying several books on more complicated jewelry making, however, I've realized that I really don't want to invest the time and money into learning how to do wire work and more sophisticated techniques. Will this change? Perhaps when retirement comes or I get bored just making beads I'll take a class or read just the right book, but for now let's go make some more beads.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ocho de Mayo

For some strange reason this one makes me think of balloons. I've been listening to an internet radio station that plays 70's songs all the time. Lots of Rolling Stones, Beatles and Chicago. Saturday in the Park...I think it was the Fourth of July...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cowgirl Boots

A long time ago I had a cowgirl doll and a pair of red cowgirl boots. When I look at a picture from that time, I can remember that doll perfectly, but not the little girl who wore the red boots. I've been thinking about mothers and children lately. It's strange how the person we remember being is not the same person our mothers remember. Mothers tend to attribute traits and characteristics to a child before they are able to fully express themselves: "She has Grandmother's freckles and Aunt J's stubbornness," they say, but are these things true for a lifetime? Probably not. We try to assert our adult identities, but should realize that our mothers will never see the person we are now without the misty and cherished image of the child we once were.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sing a song of sixpence

I've been quite obsessed with adding text to clay lately when I should have been concentrating on context. I made some little bird beads and started thinking about the children's rhyme "Sing a song of sixpence" and the necklace just sort of happened. The pie was fun, the pockets of rye not so much. The birds I'm making in every color because they are so friendly and I sure could use a friendly face right now( even if it is made out of clay and has a beak).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poetry Redux

It's spring and poetry is in the air (along with lots of scary thunder and lightning and rain). I've been experimenting with adding text to beads for a while and finally settled on a design I really like. Here's a bracelet with the text of an Emily Dickinson poem I love. I've also done one with Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". What direction should this take: more poems, quotes, different colors....?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I so admire the complex canes that some polymer clay artists are creating. At this time,however, experimenting with the diverse effects you can achieve with simple canes has me enthralled. The fingerprint bracelet started out as a simple black and white spiral reduced and manipulated until the spirals turned into fingerprints.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Such a simple concept that feels so fresh and spring-like when done in a soft palette.